Premiership rugby’s average match attendance is close to returning to pre-pandemic levels as the sport shows signs of recovery following a turbulent period.
Average attendance in the Premiership this season was 12,569, up by more than 1,000 on last year and almost back to pre-Covid-19 levels, according to data crunched by City A.M.
The figures exclude big games, such as those at Twickenham and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, to make for meaningful comparison.
But the expulsion of Wasps, who fell into administration at the start of the 2022-23 season and averaged below 10,000 per match last season, boosted the average figures.
Bristol Bears averaged more than 18,400 for the first time from their 10 home matches – a record for the West Country outfit – while Gloucester saw their average crowd jump to more than 14,000, 87.4 per cent of their capacity.
The figures from rugby’s traditional heartlands will buoy Premiership bigwigs’ hopes for the future. Gloucester had their worst league finish outside of the pandemic since the 1990s yet still enticed bigger audiences.
But there is still work to do elsewhere. Sale Sharks, who have sold out the AJ Bell Stadium for their semi-final with Leicester Tigers this weekend, have seen a 13 per cent increase in attendance but their average gate remains just 6,618.
Newcastle Falcons, on the other hand, have seen mostly dire gates this season with the percentage of their seats taken dropping to just 55 per cent with an average attendance of 5,611. For the visit of Exeter Chiefs in round 11, the Tyneside club saw just 3,126 fans through the turnstiles – less than the average gate in the fifth tier of English football.
Newcastle’s season-long attendance amounted to just 4,000 more than the entire capacity of St James’ Park, home of the city’s Premier League football club. Sale had a combined attendance throughout the season that amounted to less than the capacity of Manchester United’s Old Trafford.
Bath once again topped the stats for the fullest ground, with an average occupancy of 95.4 per cent. And although it is slightly down on last year’s 96 per cent, the club continued to prove that an expanded Rec stadium is good for business.
The most disappointing crowds of the season were at Exeter Chiefs, however, with fans blaming the price of tickets for their average attendance dropping from over 12,000 to below 10,800.
One quirk of the statistics was the fact that table-topping Saracens have seen their average attendance rise but the percentage of seats fall, because of their increased stadium capacity.
In all, Bristol Bears, Leicester Tigers, Gloucester, Sale Sharks and Saracens saw their average attendances rise in comparison to last season.
Bath Rugby, Exeter Chiefs, Harlequins, London Irish, Newcastle Falcons and Northampton Saints saw their average gates fall.
Leicester topped the average attendance in terms of raw figures at over 22,000 while Newcastle finished bottom in both the attendance and league tables.
All figures were taken from the official Premiership Rugby website.